Injured Spouse


You are considered an injured spouse if your share of the refund shown on your joint tax return was (or is expected to be) applied against a separate past-due debt that belongs just to your spouse, with whom you filed the joint return. This can be a federal debt, state income tax debt, state unemployment compensation debt, or child or spousal support payments.

When a refund is applied to one of these debts, it is known as an “offset.” If your refund has been offset, you should receive a Notice of Offset from either the IRS or the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, letting you know that all or part of the refund has been taken. However, if you’re not legally responsible to pay the past-due amount, you may still be entitled to receive your share of the refund.

If you don’t owe and are not responsible for any portion of the debt

If you believe you are an injured spouse, you must file a IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, to let the IRS know. You need to file Form 8379 for each year for which you are an injured spouse and want your portion of any refund. You can file this form before or after the offset occurs, depending on when you become aware of the separate debt, and can file it with your electronic return.

If you’re filing Form 8379 with your original joint return (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040-EZ), by mail, before an offset is made:

  • Write “INJURED SPOUSE” in the top left-hand corner of the first page of the joint return. 
  • Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and attach it to your return.

If you’re filing Form 8379 with your amended joint return (Form 1040X), by mail, before or after offset

  • Show both your and your spouse’s Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your original joint return.
  • You, the "injured" spouse, must sign the Form 8379.
  • Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and attach the required forms to avoid delays.

If you’re sending Form 8379 by itself, be sure to send it to the IRS Service Center where you filed your original return (or the IRS Service Center for the area where you live if you filed your original return electronically). You can find the addresses at Where to File Your Individual Return page on IRS.gov.

Important information about your refund: On Form 8379, be careful to read and answer the questions on Lines 11 and 12, if they apply to you. 

Questions 11 and 12 from form 8379

  • Check the box on Line 11 only if you want your refund to be issued with both your and your spouse’s names.
    • Do not check the box on Line 11 if you’re divorced, separated from, or no longer living with the spouse with whom you filed the joint return.
    • If the refund check is issued in both names, and you no longer maintain a joint account with the other person, you may experience difficulty in getting the check cashed.
  • The box on Line 12 lets you decide if you want your injured spouse refund to be sent to an address different from the one on your joint return. 

If you are responsible for the debt

If you are responsible for the debt, you’re generally not considered an injured spouse. See Offsets for more information.

If your refund is different than what you claimed

If the refund amount shown on the Notice of Offset is different from the amount claimed on your joint tax return, contact the IRS to find out why. There should be a phone number on the notice. If not, call 1-800-829-1040.

Generally, if you file IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, with the original joint return, the IRS will process it before an offset occurs. As you’ll see on Form 8379, items on the joint return will be allocated for each spouse. Be sure to list the correct amounts for each category.

If you lived in a community property state during the tax year, the IRS will divide the joint refund based on state law. Community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Form 8379 – How long will it take?     

The length of time required for the IRS to process your Form 8379 varies according to how it was filed.

  • Electronically 
    • 11 weeks, if you file Form 8379 with your electronic original return 
  • Paper
    • 14 weeks, if you file Form 8379 with your paper original or amended joint tax return, or
      8 weeks, if you file Form 8379 separately, after the joint return has been processed. 

If you file Form 8379 separately from your original return, there’s a chance the refund may be offset before the IRS processes your claim.  If this happens and you receive a Notice of Offset, contact the IRS to find out if it received your Form 8379.

Non-federal tax debts

To find out if a debt is owed (other than federal tax), and whether a refund will be offset, contact the Bureau of Fiscal Services’ Treasury Offset Program Call Center at 1-800-304-3107 (for TTY/TDD help, call 1-866-297-0517). They will tell you if a debt exists, and which agency you owe. To get further information, or to dispute the debt, you’ll need to contact the actual agency where the debt is owed.

Federal Tax debts

For federal tax offsets and questions, you may contact the IRS at:

  • 1-800-829-1040
  • 1-800-829-4059 TTY/TDD

IRS Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals, Injured spouse section

IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation,

IRS Instructions for Form 8379

In certain instances, a spouse may be relieved of tax, interest, and penalties on a joint federal tax return. Three types of relief are available to married people who filed joint returns:

  • Innocent spouse relief
  • Separation of liability relief
  • Equitable relief

See the IRS’s Tax Information for Innocent Spouses for more information.

Have a different tax issue?  Browse common issues and situations at Get Help.

Is your tax problem more complex?  If your issue is causing you financial hardship, you have tried repeatedly and are not receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting TAS.

Do you feel that you need help from a tax professional but can’t afford one? You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Last modified September 1, 2016